Labaco arrived at the High in 2007 with a mandate to bring its decorative arts collection into the 21st century. He immediately began making acquisitions of furniture and other objects by an international cadre of designers.
Labaco made strides in connecting with the local design community and infusing some hip energy into an otherwise staid environment. “European Design Since 1985: Shaping the New Century,” which closed August 29, filled the museum’s Anne Cox Chambers Wing with innovative furniture, lighting, housewares and industrial design. (See John Angelo Benson’s spoof of high modernism, below.)
Labaco wasn’t looking to leave, he said, but the prospect of working at an institution entirely devoted to design was just too enticing. “It’s an opportunity to realize projects at a faster pace,” he said. Furthermore, the design museum’s mission to blur the boundaries among art, craft and design is a perfect fit with his own interests, he said.
Labaco was very involved in curating “Modern by Design” as part of the High’s collaboration with New York’s Museum of Modern Art. That exhibition, which will open in June 2011, chronicles the history of MoMA’s design collection and the development of 20th-century modernism. Labaco had also proposed acquiring a group of works by nine important designers, which would be exhibited at the same time.
It is his understanding that the High is committed to building its design collection. He certainly made a very good start.